New Wineskins and New Cloth

I got a good question from Lori I thought I would share:

Today, I was reading the lessons for today, and I have always been confused by these 2 verses (21-22).  I don't understand how they go with the previous verses. Do you know how they go together?

Mark 2:18-22  
Now John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, "How is it that John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?"  Jesus answered, "How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them.  But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.  

"No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse.  And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, he pours new wine into new wineskins."

There are a couple of different takes on those verses, but I don't have time to tell you all of them... So I will just tell you my take...

Jesus is contrasting new and old, and how they do not go together:

- New cloth will shrink and rip the old cloth it gets sewn to.
- New wine cannot go into old, dried skins.  The old skins are too brittle and will crack with the new, wet wine.

He is using illustrations that everyone would have understood to illustrate why accepting him as Lord requires surrendering to a radically new life.  Jesus is the New Covenant, or "New Contract", or "New System" with mankind.  The Old Contract required circumcision, changing one's ethnicity and nationality, and accepting a whole system of kosher laws to be one of God's chosen people.  Furthermore, the Old Contract required following a God that no one had ever really seen or talked to, at least not in the last 1000 years!

The New Contract is for God's chosen people to be from every tribe and tongue, and to be united by faith and Baptism into a new Body, the Church.  This new Body, or Family, is called to live a totally new kind of life, and enter into a New Kingdom by following a totally new kind of King: a Dead-yet-Risen God-Man.  One cannot follow Him without radically rejecting the Lordship of all other old Lords, and submitting them totally to the new King to be done with as He pleases.

This requires us to radically abandon all that is old and give it over to Jesus as our King.  He may give some of it back and say "this is useful to serve me", or He may throw it all away and make us start over.  We hold no ownership rights over our old life.  If we try to hold on to the old and the new without giving EVERYTHING over to Jesus, it will rip us apart like a unshrunk patch rips old clothes, or new wine rips apart old wineskins.

Also, right before these verses Jesus talks about the wedding and the bridegroom.  What does the bride have to do before being married?  She must reject any old romances and give herself TOTALLY to her husband!  One cannot have a new marriage and an old flame!  These two parables go together because they show us how we cannot have two masters, two husbands, nor a mind divided between new and old.  We have to totally, utterly choose Jesus and His New Covenant, or else our lives will be torn apart by being "double minded" (see James ch. 1).

A modern version of this parable might be:

"So!  You want to get married to Jesus, but you also want to keep doing all the same things you did before?  You want to try and mix his new life with "the best" of your old life, huh?  You want to give Jesus everything you don't like, but hold on to everything you do like?

Well, that is as stupid as hooking up a new power line to an old house that isn't even wired for electricity!  The whole house will burn to the ground!  That's even as dumb as trying to use new software in a 10 year old computer!  The whole system will crash and give you the blue screen of death!  No, silly: you hook up electricity to new wiring, and you put new software on a new computer!  The new life of Jesus is just like that.  You have got to surrender to him totally, and allow Him to make you a radically new creation, then He can fill you with His new life!"

1 comment:

Call Me Ishmael said...

Comparing a covenant to a contract certainly has some advantages. But the standard covenantal formula of "I will be your God and you will be my people" (which mirrored the language of ancient lord (suzerain)/vassal covenant-treaties) is difficult to shoehorn into the modern concept of a contract. But I think your marriage illustration helps make up for that deficiency.

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